Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saffron 'could stop you going blind'

A very small sample -- and strange that the effect is temporary

It is one food colouring that you won't mind giving to the family. Research has shown that saffron, which gives chicken korma and paella their yellow colour, helps keep vision sharp. Test findings suggest the spice reverses age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, the most common cause of blindness in old people.

'Patients' vision improved after taking the saffron pill,' said Professor Silvia Bisti, of the University of Sydney, who carried out the research. 'When they were tested with traditional eye charts, a number of them could read one or two lines smaller than before, while others reported they could read newspapers and books again.' The finding is timely as it is thought the number of AMD sufferers will treble in the next 25 years as the population ages. It currently affects a quarter of over-60s in the UK and more than half of over-75s. There are few treatments for the condition - and no cure. While peripheral vision is not affected, the damage to central vision leads to many sufferers being registered as blind or partially sighted.

Saffron has actually been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat a range of ailments, though Professor Bisti is the first to look at its effects on eyesight. In tests carried out in Italy - where saffron is widely cultivated - pensioners with AMD were given a daily saffron pill for three months followed by a dummy drug for a further three months. A second group took the supplements in the reverse order. Twenty-five took part in all.

'All patients experienced improvements in their vision while taking the saffron pill,' Professor Bisti said. 'But when they stopped taking it, the effect quickly disappeared.' She added: 'The chemistry of saffron is quite complex. It is well-known as an anti- oxidant but no one has explored its effects on eyesight before.' She believes saffron, which is widely used in Spanish and Indian cooking, affects the amount of fat stored by the eye, making vision cells 'tougher and more resilient'.

Saffron is used in traditional medicine for treating conditions including cancerous tumours and depression. The spice also has properties which encourage oxygen flow and prevents cell death. Researchers are now hoping to discover the ideal dosage. They will also look at saffron's ability to treat genetic eye diseases that can cause life-long blindness.


Personal Responsibility Still Ahead?

By now, you’ve probably heard about the new White House initiative to combat childhood obesity, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama. It’s a noble goal. In anticipation of this announcement, Forbes columnist and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Karlyn Bowman took a look on Monday at where the public stands regarding obesity, and found that Americans overwhelmingly support personal responsibility:
People see personal responsibility as key. In the CBS poll, 89% said obesity can mostly be controlled with diet and exercise, while 7% said it is out of our hands. This emphasis may be one reason Americans are not enthusiastic about new taxes on unhealthful behaviors.

In a Harris Interactive/Tax Foundation online poll from early 2009 on general tax attitudes, 36% favored a tax on sugary drinks, while 58% were opposed to it. Twenty-three percent favored a tax on foods with salt (71% were opposed), and 39% for junk food in general (56% opposed). On all three items, the opposition was strong: Of the 58% who were opposed to the tax on sugary drinks, for example, 41% were strongly opposed….

Other recent surveys have tied these taxes to health care reform costs, and this impacts the numbers. In an April 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 52% favored increasing taxes on unhealthy snack foods to "help pay for health care reform and provide coverage for more of the uninsured," but a strong 46% were opposed.

The ending serves as a warning that Americans are more willing to support taxes on “bad” foods if they’re couched as “helping” health care reform. And while the Los Angeles Times reported last week that soft drink taxes are dead federally, soft drink tax crusader Kelly Brownell brags that “We're getting contacted by a new city or state almost every day who are seriously thinking about the idea of a tax.”

The political pendulum is certainly swinging. But with the vast majority of Americans believing in personal responsibility when it comes to weight control, the ploys of self-anointed “food police” who practice social engineering via the tax code face an uphill battle.


No comments: